Thoughts on CityWorks (X)po and the Small Cities Movement

Conference organizer Ed Walker closes out CityWorks (X)po on Saturday | From CityWorks (X)po Facebook page

This past weekend I got to attend the CityWorks (X)po, held at Charter Hall and the renovated City Market Building (link goes to the event’s Facebook page, which I’m assuming will remain active in some form or another).  I really enjoyed it – an eclectic group of presenters of both national and local fame, and a variety of topics, all pointing back to the premise of the endeavor:  the small cities are the places where big ideas can happen, and where exciting things can be tested and implemented quickly.

Of course, I was particularly excited on the first full day of the event, which saw three presentations discussing the role of the bicycle in creating healthy communities – one of which came from Mia Birk, Principal of Alta Planning + Design and credited with making Portland what it is today.  Another came from Marin County, California, where they discussed how a community that grew a reputation for mountain biking parlayed that into a community where cycling became popular for transportation (also on mountain bike, as it happened, since many of the bike-friendly shortcuts throughout the county relied on taking off-road trails).  The mayor of Davis, California (a Platinum rated Bicycle Friendly Community) spoke via Skype and talked a little of the importance of cycling there.

There were a number of other presentations discussing various ways that small communities have done things to make themselves vital and thriving.  I came away from each of them with the germ of an idea, something to make the RIDE Solutions program better, or some way to rethink how transportation options can help spark activity in a locale.

Which is the problem with these things, isn’t it?  You come out with so many great ideas it’s hard to keep track of them, and then when getting back to the every day work sets in its easy to forget and let the energy fade.

One way the CityWorks folks (I think it’s them, at least) are trying to retain that energy is the Envision Roanoke project, a way to crowdsource great ideas.  I’d recommend checking it out (and maybe voting for the bike racks suggestion, hint, hint).

Another idea is the project of one of the presenters, the CommonPlace web community.  The platform looks like a great way to connect neighbors and neighborhoods.  Obviously, this would be great for things like carpool matching, finding bike buddies, and school walking groups.  There’s a place to nominate your community – I’d recommend doing so.

But in the spirit of soliciting Big Ideas, I’d like to ask for yours – what are some things RIDE Solutions could do better?  Who are some folks we should be partnering with but haven’t?  If you could change/fix/upgrade one thing about our transportation system in the region, what would it be?

Let’s keep the energy going!

Mia Birk Conference Call this Wednesday

Mia Birk, author of Joyride and CEO of Alta Planning

Mia Birk Conference Call
Wednesday, June 15, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission
Upstairs Conference Room

The Regional Commission will host a 1-hour Q&A conference call with Mia Birk on Wednesday, June 15th at 2:00pm (just prior to the APBP webinar). Mia Birk is CEO of Alta planning and author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet in which see discusses how implementation of bicycle projects transformed Portland into a bicycling friendly community. Copies of Joyride are available for loan through the Regional Commission. If you have any questions for Mia, please send them to Shane Sawyer at and he will forward them to her prior to the conference call.

APBP Professional Development Webinar Series
Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design Within a Constrained Right of Way
Wednesday, June 15, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission
Upstairs Conference Room

This 90-minute webinar will offer case studies of real projects that have improved bicycle and pedestrian conditions within existing urban rights of way. Three examples of retrofitting a constrained right of way are drawn from New York City, San Francisco and Tampa.

The Regional Commission is located at 313 Luck Avenue, SW 24016 in downtown Roanoke. Directions are available at